Most Christians agree that the most important part of their entire religion centers on Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Even the most liberal Christians generally think that even if they can consider the whole rest of the Bible to be mythic in nature, Jesus absolutely died and then resurrected himself in the real world for realsies. That part, that one, that event: It had to have happened.

Now one evangelical has taken it upon himself to set up six hypotheses about what our world would be like if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected. Let’s test his first three claims, and see how he did!

(This post initially appeared on Patreon on 4/16/2024. Its audio ‘cast lives there too and should be available right now!)

Circular reasoning? They’re soaking in it!

On April 7th, an evangelical pastor named Robb Brunansky wrote an impassioned opinion post (archive) for Christian Post. Unsurprisingly given the general date, it concerns Jesus’ supposed resurrection. And it is absolutely hilarious for its total lack of coherence and critical thinking.

Very often, evangelicals come out with these complete howlers because they’re completely immersed in their cultural bubbles. It doesn’t even occur to them that outsiders might find serious flaws in their reasoning. And if they’re presented with those flaws, their fellow bubble-dwellers can hand-wave them away without a second thought.

This exact problem explains why evangelicals think apologetics and glurge-loaded Christian movies are fantastic recruitment tools. That stuff’s sure convinced them, so why wouldn’t it convince normies too?

The only reason Christians find stuff like today’s OP persuasive is that they already agree with it. They consider circular reasoning very persuasive when it’s about their already-existing beliefs.

When we talk about the faucets feeding into someone’s Faith Pool, the faucets represent what the believer considers to be compelling support for their belief. If the believer ever realizes that circular arguments aren’t actually compelling support, the faucet turns off. With that, it no longer feeds water into the Faith Pool.

For the most part, it doesn’t occur to Christians to apply rigorous critical thinking skills to their own existing beliefs. This is why the guy who did that huge Ancient Aliens debunk video frustrates me. At one time, he was way into that conspiracy theory. He escaped that belief, but then he skittered back from the ledge of applying the exact same processes to his Christian beliefs. I’ve seen the same skittering-away from ex-vangelicals who deconstruct but still remain completely loyal to evangelical culture-war stances.

So today, we’re going to examine this OP to find out how testable this pastor’s claims are—and then we’re going to test them.

How to test claims

When we’re presented with a claim, ideally we ask for supporting evidence for it before we buy into it. The claim represents a potential Faith Pool. For a claim to become a belief, faucets must start pouring water into the pool faster than contradictions can drain that water away.

To test claims, first and foremost they must be falsifiable. Falsifiability is one of the most powerful parts of the scientific method. There must exist conditions that would invalidate the claim, or predictions about it that would turn out to be incorrect. IF the claim is true, THEN we’d expect to find thus-and-such.

If a claim simply cannot be falsified, then we can safely discard it.

Once we establish that a claim has falsifiable elements, then we can start probing to find out if those elements have occurred or will occur.

Example: Chromosome counts in humans and apes

For instance, Creationists cannot accept that humans share an ancient ancestor with today’s apes. Creationists are Christians who erroneously think that the Bible is literally true in every single way. Thus, they often support their claim (archive) with the fact that humans have 46 chromosomes while apes—our nearest modern relative—have 48. Therefore, Creationists claim, humans cannot have evolved from a shared ancestor with apes.

Alas for them, the fusion producing chromosome 2 in humans (archive) actually functions as compelling evidence for that evolution! (See also: This TalkOrigins topic about the same.) Scientists can make predictions about that fusion, then test those predictions. They can find no contradictions to the claim that two chromosomes fused at some point in primate development about 900k years ago.

Even that Creationist link above must admit to the amazing similarity of human chromosome 2 with primate chromosomes 2a and 2b. They try very hard to inject an element into that fusion that doesn’t actually exist in the form of “ghostly remains of chromosomal structures known as telomeres and centromeres,” which they claim are absent. Alas for them again, those structures are very much present, as the fusion link above tells us. First, here are the telomeres:

The other visible footprint of the fusion is the presence of telomeric sequence at the place where the ancestral 2a and 2b telomeres joined. The fusion site was localized by Jacob Ijdo and collaborators in 1991 as they were surveying sequence data for a distinctive six-base-pair repeat sequence commonly found near telomeres.

The inverted arrangement of the TTAGGG array and the adjacent sequences, which are similar to sequences found at present-day human telomeres, is precisely that predicted for a head-to-head telomeric fusion of two chromosomes.

And now, the centromeres:

When the ancestral chromosomes fused together, the shorter arm of ancestral 2a became connected to the shorter end of ancestral 2b. For some time the newly-fused chromosome had two centromeres. This is an unstable situation. Today the 2a centromere continues to function, while ancestral 2b centromere is just a tiny shadow of its former self. [. . .]

Karen Miga surveyed the ancestral 2b centromere in humans and found several sequence variations in the degraded α satellite repeats that are not found in the chimpanzee genome. The known ancient genomes have these human-specific markers. This is not only evidence that the chromosomes had fused in the common ancestors of ancestral African, Neandertal, and Denisovan populations, but also that the ancestral 2b centromere had already evolved into its humanlike nonfunctional form before these hominins diverged.

And this is why most people prefer to get their scientific information from actual scientists, not fundagelical lawyers and engineers—or, in the case of the person who wrote that Creationist tripe, someone even less qualified who has only “a bachelor’s degree in religion from Liberty University and a master’s degree in theological studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.”

Our OP and the source of its claims about the resurrection

Now we can return our attention to the OP and its claims about Jesus’ resurrection. Its writer draws his conclusions from 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, for the most part, though he’ll be wandering all around the New Testament as well.

As we see in its first chapter, 1 Corinthians generally addresses the many doctrinal squabbles that were already erupting in early Christian groups:

My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: Individuals among you are saying, “I follow Paul,” “I follow Apollos,” “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” [1 Corinthians 1:11-12]

Likewise, Chapter 15 seeks to solidify one particular set of teachings as the only proper and valid ones in the early years of the religion. In particular, its writer emphasized Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as his position in the emerging divine hierarchy:

Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put everything under His feet.” Now when it says that everything has been put under Him, this clearly does not include the One who put everything under Him. And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all. [1 Corinthians 15:24-28]

But our OP’s writer wants to concentrate on the part of 1 Corinthians 15 that makes assertions about what Christians would look like if Jesus had never had a bad half-weekend on humanity’s behalf.

Claim #1 about the Resurrection: On the nature of worthlessness

For his first claim, Robb Brunansky writes:

First, if Jesus had not been raised, then Gospel preaching would be worthless. [. . .]

If Christ had not been raised from the dead, all evangelism and Gospel preaching would be worthless. All efforts to tell friends, family, and neighbors about Jesus would be a complete waste.

But he never actually defines what worthlessness might look like, nor “a complete waste.” How does a fundagelical evaluate the wastefulness or worth of evangelism and preaching? By successful recruitment? Or good feelings on the part of the person pushing unwanted recruitment attempts at others? We do not know.

Brunansky decides by fiat that evangelism and preaching are, in fact, “worth the effort.:

But notice verse 20. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead.” All evangelistic work IS worth the effort, time, toil, energy, and finances put into it! All ministries aimed at reaching out to the lost ARE worthy of prayer, support, and time. Christ’s resurrection turns this implication on its head. If Gospel preaching is vain apart from Jesus’ resurrection, then it is significant because He has been raised.

Just as he never defined worthlessness or worth (nor “vain” in the above quote), he never defines how “all evangelistic work IS worth” evangelicals’ finite, limited resources.

Debunking Claim #1: Logical fallacies ahoy!

This one fails on not one, not two, but three separate levels!

First: Even if Brunansky had given us real-world definitions of his terms, though, this argument would be struck from the Faith Pool because it’s an Appeal to Consequences. It never actually examines any possible evidence supporting Jesus’ resurrection. Instead, Brunansky goes: Gosh, it’d super-suck if Jesus never resurrected himself! Therefore, he must have! Hooray Team Jesus!

Second: Worse, this claim is not falsifiable even if we graciously grant Brunansky’s beliefs as being based in reality. He can’t tell us what a world without a resurrection would really look like, because in his belief system there isn’t such a world—and never will be. He can’t tell us what evangelism would look like if his god didn’t exist, either, nor what his own prayers would produce in such a world.

Third: To outsiders to his faith, of course, we likely already know that Christian evangelism and preaching looks quite worthless. Preaching doesn’t produce better Christians. It never has. Evangelism recruits people who will only waste their resources on religion, which might confer social benefits but certainly isn’t in communion with any deities who want to help their followers in material ways.

Really, in every single way Christianity operates exactly as I’d expect for a religion with no ties to anything supernatural.

Worse yet, all too many evangelicals just like Brunansky refuse to help others unless that help is tied into a recruitment attempt (archive) for their religious groups. That fact makes his religion not only worthless but predatory.

Claim #2 about the Resurrection: On the nature of faith for no good reason

Often, I’ve mentioned that evangelicals in particular want to have their beliefs both ways. They know that the Bible emphasizes the superior value of faith for no good reason. However, they also want to have beliefs that are fully based in reality. That’s the exact dilemma facing Creationists, in fact.

So it’s not surprising that Brunansky’s second claim makes an assertion about Christianity as a faith system:

Second, if Jesus had not been raised, then faith in Christ would be worthless and meaningless.

In our culture, people say things like, “You just have to believe. You need to have faith.”

And indeed, even the most fundamentalist and Creationistic of fundagelicals say that. Most of us have likely heard a variation on that quoted statement, especially if we push back against Christian claims. What Christians mean when they tell us we “just have to believe” and “need to have faith” is that we must believe Christian claims for no good reason and without any supporting evidence.

Brunansky needs supporting evidence for his claims, though, and he thinks Paul did as well:

This wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s take on faith, though. Paul’s view in verses 14 and 17 was that, apart from Jesus’ resurrection, faith is a complete waste of time. Some have said, “Even if they proved Jesus never bodily rose from the dead, I wouldn’t give up on faith. I’d still have my faith.” Paul’s response would have been, “Why would you have your faith? It would be utterly meaningless!”

He’s also right about some Christians claiming that even if they realized Christian claims were false, they’d still remain Christians and would still have faith in those claims. That’s a common claim and one I heard many times as a Pentecostal.

I didn’t believe it when I heard it, though, and clearly neither does Brunansky. Oh, but don’t worry:

But because Christ has been raised from the dead, faith is not meaningless, if, it is in the resurrected Savior. Our faith is worthwhile because we believe, not in a dead savior, but in a Risen Lord!

See? It’s that simple!

Debunking Claim #2: Except there’s no evidence the Resurrection happened

It’s also that wrong. This second claim fails on similar levels as the first one.

Without having supporting evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, we don’t know that he’s a “Risen Lord” in the first place. Even if someone found evidence to support the idea of a resurrection, for all we know he might be a Gallifreyan Time Lord or an Ainur out of The Lord of the Rings. Gods rarely sign their miracles, it seems, so we can ignore this bit of twaddle about Jesus being a “Risen Lord.”

But Brunansky also fails to define what makes faith meaningful. Despite Christians’ claims not being true, many Christians find deep meaning and significance in their faith. Many Christians of very strong faith aren’t even interested in testing their own beliefs and claims—and if they don’t bug anybody else about it, I’m fine with that!

For that matter, many people in other religions find similar meaningfulness in their own beliefs. One needn’t even be religious to have meaningful beliefs. I’m a None-of-the-Above who finds immense meaning in the beliefs I hold, like: Love is best expressed as an action verb.

So I feel very safe in saying that if Jesus never existed or died or resurrected, Christians could and would still find great meaning in their beliefs. Even if we take Christian beliefs as literal truth, we’d have the evidence of non-Christians finding meaning in their beliefs to contradict Brunansky’s assertion.

Debunking Claim #3: On literalism
(Does he really wanna go there? Oh I guess he does…)

For Brunansky’s third claim, he really puts his foot in the mess:

Third, if Jesus had not been raised, then the Bible would be a false witness about God.

Paul and his fellow apostles would be liars about God if Jesus had not been raised because their message was that God had raised Jesus from the dead. This is serious. What Paul is saying in verse 15 is that the New Testament is a book of lies if Jesus is not alive today.

For a fundagelical, this is a serious problem to consider. Fundagelicals are, as their name implies, a fusion of fundamentalists with evangelicals. This fusion occurred around the 1990s, completing around the 2000s. Before that, evangelicals were not literalists. They had a more scholarly interpretation of the Bible that fundamentalists solidly rejected.

And one thing fundamentalists said all the time back before that fusion was that if one single thing in the Bible turned out to be objectively untrue, then Christians might as well chuck out the entire thing. (Well, unless they also belligerently claimed that they’d totes be Christian even then! Don’t expect consistency out of these folks.) Fundamentalists thought evangelicals were one step away from deconversion by allowing any doubts to creep in about the veracity of anything in the Bible.

So in effect, Brunansky is daring his fellow fundagelicals to choose between the Bible being totes-for-realsies 100% true or being “a book of lies.” Non-fundagelicals wouldn’t have a problem here. They’re already fairly comfortable with considering wide swathes of the Bible as metaphorical, poetic, or even apocalyptic-fantasist in nature.

But fundagelicals definitely would.

Claim #3 offers fundagelicals a cruel dilemma

Back in the 2010s, I saw fundagelical pastors setting their flocks up for that dilemma all the time. It’s like they carefully set out the lane markers leading straight to the brick wall of doubt and deconversion, then encouraged their flocks to put the pedal to the metal on their faith-cars. They’d say things like If this isn’t true then none of it’s true! and If you can’t trust the Bible about this-and-that, then you cannot trust it at all!

Remember, non-fundagelicals don’t have an all-or-nothing view of the Bible. This dilemma exists only for literalists, who cannot allow even one of the Bible’s verses to be anything but a literal accounting of science and history.

The pastors I saw deploying this cruel dilemma fully expected the flocks to slam on the brakes well before reaching the brick wall, turning aside to drill down even harder on their beliefs. That stopped working at least a decade ago or so, but you still see pastors doing it sometimes. Fundagelicals seem so scared of doubt that the move usually pays off.

After invoking this fear, just as he did with the first two claims, Brunansky chirpily dismisses this terrifying threat:

But because Christ has been raised from the dead, the apostles and the New Testament are true witnesses of God and His redemptive acts! Jesus’ resurrection means that our Bibles are completely faithful and worthy of our trust.

See? You can trust the entire Bible now!

Debunking Claim #3: One false dilemma after another

The cruel dilemma in general is about setting up a false dilemma for fundagelicals:

  1. Christianity is based upon the Bible’s claims
  2. Either those claims are entirely true, or they are entirely false
  3. If the claims are not entirely true, then the Bible must be discarded

Alas for fundagelical pastors, there’s no reason to accept #2 as true, nor #3 as the only resolution allowed. As I mentioned earlier, tons of Christians seem quite comfortable with a Bible that is not 100% literally true.

But there’s another false dilemma going on here, and it’s even more wackadoodle:

If a fundagelical PROVES YES PROVES that even one claim from the Bible as literal truth, then the entire book consists of nothing but similar truths.

This line of thinking is what gave us one of God Awful Movies’ funniest lines ever, in my opinion, in their excellent review of Leap, a fundagelical homebrew movie about some dumbasses dealing with the end of the world. At around 1:09:00, we get this:

Noah: The thing that they’re trying to point to, over and over again, is like oh look at this thing that the Bible said will happen right before the end times! Look, it says that we’ll have a lot of technology and learn a lot of stuff! To which the Michael character actually says, “It’s crazy! It’s got our time written all over, at like with the airplanes and the internet!” He actually says those words!

Eli: Yeah, I wrote it as a joke, cuz he goes, “It says in the Bible people will run to and fro,” and I wrote in my notes, “People do run to and fro!” And then Michael says that!

Creationists do the same thing. They think if they can totally PROVE YES PROVE that their invisible wizard friend poofed the whole universe into existence over seven days about 6-10k years ago, then everyone has to believe every other claim made the Bible. In reality, all they would have supported at that point would be one claim out of the Bible. It contains plenty of other ones, but once one thing gets supported, Creationists expect us to consider every other claim in it fully supported as well.

The other big problem Brunansky has here is that he’s trying to use the Bible to support the Bible’s claims. The Bible is the claim. It cannot also be the support for the claims. If we allowed that, then we’d have to consider Spider-Man, unicorns, and Hogwarts real.

We’re under no obligation to cut any woo-peddler slack in trying to recruit us.

Bad reasoning abounds here for a reason

We’re going to tackle the remainder of this guy’s post next time. For now, though, I want to look at why evangelicals are always so happy and content to make use of logical fallacies and the like.

It’s very simple: They don’t have anything better to offer.

The flocks wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they had anything better. They’ve had the luxury of being able to be completely lazy intellectually, to be spoon-fed fetid rot like this OP in lieu of real reasons to believe. For centuries, their religion held supreme sway over much of the world, so they didn’t even need to know what made their religion different from others, much less what made it a better deal for them than joining some other religious group. They couldn’t join anything else!

Now, though, it matters enormously that Christians learn to sell their religion to others. And they just can’t do it. More than that, they won’t. They’ve never had to do it before, not since the first couple of centuries their religion existed. Now that they must or face irrelevance, they’re resisting this new reality with all their strength.

Christian Post has always been a fortress holding out against encroaching reality. I like the site because it’s a leftover from the age of the Grand Evangelical-Atheist Keyboard Wars of the 2000s and 2010s. Though the big-name influencers have moved on to alt-right politics, 24/7 Trump idolization, and exciting new conspiracy theories, I suspect millions of fundagelicals still remember and love those days.

I bet, as well, that they would love to go back to those days.

Back then, they could use nonstop Appeals to Consequences and circular reasoning, and not worry much at all about someone like me coming along to point out that none of that actually really supports any of their religious claims. That must have been nice for them back then. Things sure are different now!

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Captain Cassidy

Captain Cassidy is a Gen-X ex-Christian and writer. She writes about how people engage with science, religion, art, and each other. She lives in Idaho with her husband, Mr. Captain, and their squawky orange tabby cat, Princess Bother Pretty Toes. And at any given time, she is running out of bookcase space.


Evangelical resurrection claims: But sin still rules Christians - Roll to Disbelieve · 04/22/2024 at 4:00 AM

[…] Last time we met up, we checked out the first part of an evangelical pastor’s terrible listicle (archive) about Jesus’ resurrection. He wanted his flocks to feel more certain that Jesus’ resurrection really happened in the real world. And I’ve no doubt that he did very best he could to reassure them. It’s not entirely his fault that the results were so hilariously bad. As we’ll see, this is just how evangelicalism works. […]

Evangelical resurrection claims: And yet death comes for us all - Roll to Disbelieve · 04/26/2024 at 1:01 AM

[…] Last time we met up, we checked out the second part of an evangelical pastor’s terrible listicle (archive) about Jesus’ resurrection. That pastor, Robb Brunansky, wanted his flocks to feel more certain that Jesus’ resurrection really happened in the real world. So far, though, he hasn’t supported a single one of his claims. Worse, at least one—regarding Christians’ supposed freedom from what he called the power and penalty of sin—is only true, if it is at all, in the most metaphorical way imaginable. […]

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